Procedure for Deselection at Bishop’s University Library

Procedure for Deselection at Bishop’s University Library

Learning Commons exterior view

Deselection or “weeding”, as it is often referred to, is an integral part of good collection management. It should be an on‑going task which, if done well, can help to assure the quality and maintain the currency of the collection. Failure to weed can result in overcrowded shelves making retrieval of the needed materials difficult.  Retaining out‑dated material may mean that users are retrieving books which contain inappropriate or even incorrect information.  At any time, removing unneeded material can be as important as adding new material.

Particularly as we embark on transforming the John Bassett Memorial Library into a Learning Commons, there is a need to shrink the collection in order to make room for services integral to the commons model. The librarians at Bishop’s have been adamant throughout the planning process that a core collection be maintained in the building. At no time shall an item be targeted for withdrawal based solely on the fact that we do not have space for it. After the deselection procedure has been applied to the entire general collection, measuring will be done to ensure that the core collection will fit on the amount of shelving delegated in the renovated space. Once this process has been completed, if there is not enough shelving provided in the new space, other options such as on or off campus storage will be explored.

It is important to remember that different areas of the collection will require different deselection criteria. The subject librarian must be familiar with the needs of the users in a particular subject area. The librarian must also be familiar with the objectives of the different programs and the courses being taught. There is always a problem of subjectivity when qualitative criteria are applied to weeded materials. Opinions will differ regarding what should be retained and what should be withdrawn. It is our procedure, therefore, to garner more than one opinion on the material chosen for removal, particularly in these more difficult areas of the collection. Often reconsideration of the criteria that were used for selection of the items can clarify reasons for withdrawal; or in other cases the subject librarian may consult faculty members of the relevant department for their professional opinions.

It should be remembered that Bishop’s is a small liberal arts university, and the librarians shall maintain a well-rounded collection in order to provide students with as wide a diversity of materials as possible.  The collection must be able to support research which strays outside the strict boundaries of the outlined curriculum.  Multidisciplinary books or books of general interest and importance shall be retained.  For example, there may be no course which deals directly with Stalin but a biography of his life would certainly be of value to students studying in a variety of disciplines.

Learning Commons shelves

Criteria for withdrawal of material from the general collection:

  1. currency of material and contained information
  2. poor physical condition
  3. availability of other/later editions
  4. changing needs of the community
  5. ephemeral material
  6. level of usage
  7. inappropriate format

Discussion of the above criteria

A) Currency of material and contained information:

  • Incorrect information vs. historical interest ‑ A book on birth control from the 1920’s may be of interest while an early book on AIDS may contain misleading information. It is important to be able to differentiate between what material is of historical value and what material may mislead users.
  • The information may have been updated elsewhere.
  • More factual information may be available elsewhere.
  • The format of presentation shall be considered.

B) Poor physical condition

  • Deterioration may be due to heavy usage thus indicating a need for replacement or repair.
  • The library may have other editions or copies in better condition.

C) Availability of other/later editions

  • The librarian shall consider if there is anything in the earlier edition/s that would warrant the retention. There may be a different introduction or different information.
  • If the editions are cumulated there may be no need to retain the earlier ones.
  • This will, of course, be discipline specific as in some subjects all editions of a work are of interest and shall be retained.

D) Changing needs of the community

  • There may be a need to retain the material for its intrinsic value even though there is no course being taught. For example, if a professor in the English department decides to replace one author with another in a course the material for the dropped author shall not be withdrawn. However, if an entire program is dropped, such as farm management, then the librarian shall consider if it is necessary to retain the material. Items in such a specialized area may never be needed again. Many items are interdisciplinary in scope and this shall be taken into account.
  • The needs of the community may change back in the future and this shall be investigated.

E) Ephemeral material

  • The material may not be relevant or may have become dated, such as booklets, pamphlets, directories, guides, dated government documents etc.

F) Level of usage

  • Low usage does not necessarily reflect the value of the material and shall be considered carefully as a withdrawal criterion.
  • Use of a book does not always establish importance. Is Sports Illustrated our most valuable periodical? Shall we withdraw Plato?
  • Low usage shall never be used as the sole criterion for withdrawal but it can be usefully coupled with other criteria.
  • Usage can be used to identify potential material for removal before other criteria are used to make the final decision.
  • If possible, the reasons for low usage shall be determined. It may be that the cataloguing needs to be revised and additional access points created. There may be a better classification number.
  • Past usage can sometimes be used to predict future usage as research shows that the best indication of future use is past use. The librarian shall consider the probability of future use.

G) Format

  • The format of the material may no longer be useful.
  • The information may be available in an alternate format (such as an e-book) which might make it more useful.
  • The library may not have the equipment necessary for using the format.

Learning Commons interior

Other questions for consideration:

What else is available on the subject? Is the subject covered adequately by other items?

What would be the impact of withdrawal on the users?

Is one imposing one’s own values on the collection? Is one striving for objectivity and using valid deselection criteria?

Is the user being helped by removing the item?

Will the value of the collection be diminished?

Should another expert be consulted?

What would be the effect of retaining the item?

Is the item core material?

Who is likely to use the material and are we serving that community?